What is CNC Machining?
What is CNC Machining?

What is CNC Machining?

Ever wondered “What is CNC Machining?” Much of the success of modern manufacturing depends on Computer Numerical Control machines. CNC machining allows the manufacture of precision parts that would be impossible or impractical to make by hand. Once the workpiece is placed inside the milling machine, the computer guides the movement of the tools according to the individual program written for each part, virtually eliminating human error.

What Does CNC Stand For In Machining?

If you have even a cursory knowledge of manufacturing, you’re probably familiar with the term CNC, even if you don’t know it stands for Computer Numerical Control. What is Computer Numerical Control? It’s a computer-driven machine that can be programmed to remove parts or sections of whatever material is placed into the machine. The material in that stock piece could be metal, wood, plastic or just about any other material you can imagine.

The cuts, drills or other material removals made by the CNC machines are precise and can meet very tight tolerances. Machined parts are far more uniform and precise than parts made by hand could ever be.

What Are the Advantages of CNC Machining?

Now that you know the surface-level answer for “What is CNC Machining?” Let’s dig into the advantages of CNC Machining. Code is written that controls the exact movements of the machinery. This results in faster and more exact movements, less waste and less human error. Once a program is written to meet the specifications of a given item, the item can be reproduced quickly, easily and perfectly countless numbers of times.

Why Does Cast Metal Need Machining?

Not every cast metal item requires machining, but many do. That’s why Cast Technologies has a CNC machine shop on-site. The CNC machine shop at Cast Technologies focuses on machining cast metal items to bring them up to customer specifications. This can mean smoothing a finish, correcting a defect or merely removing sections that were needed to make a good cast but are not part of the final design. It can also mean adding fine details beyond those that can be produced by casting alone.

Having our own on-site machining services is far more desirable than working with a separate shop, because both the foundry and machine shop employees are all working toward the same goal. Plus, if anything goes wrong, we own it. There’s never any question of who is responsible for making things right for the customer. There’s no worry about poor machining ruining a good cast. When we cast it and we machine it, we are responsible for it. 

What Are Some Types of CNC Machinery?

Computer numerical control technology has shaped modern industry over the last several decades. There are many different types of CNC machinery commonly in use today. Each has advantages and disadvantages based on their cost, their ability to meet tight tolerances, their suitability for different materials and the cost of operating the machine. Some of the most common examples of CNC machinery include:

  • CNC Laser Machines: These machines use small but powerful lasers to cut or engrave any desired material, including metal. One advantage to laser CNC machines is that they have fewer moving parts and no physical cutting surfaces to wear out. Compared to many other alternatives, this means lower maintenance costs.
  • CNC Plasma Cutters: These specialized machines cut through metal using a plasma torch. Gas is forced through a nozzle and an electric arc is produced. A CNC plasma cutter is far more accurate than a hand-held plasma torch. These machines are also faster, cheaper and more precise than many other options. A plasma CNC is also versatile. It can handle thick or thin pieces of materials and works for almost any kind of metal, including steel.
  • CNC Water-Jet Machines: You wouldn’t think of plain water as being able to slice through metal, but it can. Very high-pressure water jets allow a CNC water machine to cut through metal or virtually any other material. For softer materials, pure water may be used. For harder materials, the water may be mixed with an abrasive substance, such as garnet. Using jets of water or water mixed with abrasives, a water CNC machine can cut complex shapes in a highly precise fashion. One large advantage of a water-jet cutter is they heat the workpiece less, an advantage when working with materials that could melt if subjected to high-heat cutting methods. However, they usually are slower than other CNC machines.
  • CNC Milling Machine: A CNC milling cutter is very versatile and thus one of the most common and popular CNC machines. CNC milling machines work for most metals as well as plastics, ceramics, rubber, wood and similar materials. This machine is used most often for drilling and cutting.
  • CNC Electric Discharge Machines: Electrical discharge machining has its strengths and weaknesses. Material is removed by electrical discharges. The cutting wire doesn’t touch the part being made, so extremely tight tolerances are possible and no stress is placed on the wire. But it can only be used with electronically conductive metals. It can make complex shapes that are impossible through most other means.
  • CNC Router: The CNC router is usually used for softer materials. It’s typically less expensive than most other CNC machines, but it’s also less precise.
  • CNC Lathe: As in an old-fashioned lathe, a cutting tool is applied to the workpiece, which is made to spin at high speed. However, because the CNC lathe is controlled by computer, it is faster and more accurate than hand-held methods. A CNC lathe is usually smaller and less expensive than a CNC milling machine.

What Industries Depend on CNC Machines?

It would be hard to find a manufacturer today that doesn’t rely on machining services. Some of them include:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Commercial
  • Defense
  • Electronics
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical
  • Oil and gas
  • Optical
  • Transportation
  • Many more

What is CNC Machining Prototyping?

CNC prototyping offers many advantages. But, what is CNC machining Prototyping? It’s quick and accurate. Making small changes in a prototype is simple in that only the program must be adjusted. Because of these advantages, prototype machining can be much less expensive than other manufacturing methods. Cast Technologies has the capability to perform CNC rapid prototyping. We can partner with you. Let us help you develop your prototype design.

Who Operates A CNC Machine?

The computer numerical control technology process calls for a different workflow than when factories depended on traditional machinists to operate the equipment. The programmer will study the blueprint of a given part and choose what tools would work best to shape it. Next, the programmer will write the program for the CNC machine. Another person will set up the machine and make sure everything is operating correctly. At that point, another person, often an entry-level worker, can operate the machine by loading it with materials. Each role may vary and there may be some overlap depending on the size of the shop. 

What Are the Skills of a CNC Machinist?

A CNC machinist will have advanced skills. These will likely include the ability to:

  • Read and understand blueprints 
  • Apply strong math skills
  • Program and set up CNC machines
  • Understand the properties of metal and other materials
  • Read calipers and gauges

Are You Looking For A One-Stop Casting and Machining Shop?

Casting Technologies has the people, equipment and experience you need. Whether you’re working on a prototype or have a part for which you need a small or large production run, we can handle the whole process. Our equipment allows us to design, cast and machine almost anything you might require, from small, delicate parts up to pieces weighing hundreds of pounds. Our engineer can answer any questions you might have. Contact us today.